Fund-raising and budget squeezing could save the job of the Payson fire marshal and perhaps avert the dismissal of at least some of the part-time workers in the parks department, the Roundup has learned.
Town Manager Debra Galbraith Friday confirmed that offsetting savings in the fire department could save the job of Fire Marshal Bob Lockhart.
In addition, several council members met Friday morning with the Friends of Payson Parks and Recreation board to discuss a campaign to raise enough money to avert the layoff of as many part-time and seasonal workers workers as possible.
The budget plan approved recently by the council included more than $300,000 in savings by eliminating more than 120 part-time and seasonal positions, most of them in the parks department.
“We keep looking for things every day,” said Galbraith. “Any time we can stop the layoffs — we would love to be able to do that. This is totally not a personal thing in any way, shape or form —we just have to find ways to pay these expenses.”
The town council recently approved cuts in reaction to a November drop in sales tax revenue and a projected $4.5 million shortfall in the town’s $28 million budget. The budget plan gave Galbraith the authority to reduce the full-time staff by seven and layoff all the part-timers — in addition to canceling almost all street and capital improvement projects and wringing savings from everything from janitorial services to office supplies.
The full-time reductions included the fire marshal, the chief fiscal officer, the finance coordinator, the grants manager, the town manager’s administrative assistant and two people in the building department.
Payson Fire Chief Marti deMasi said that after learning of the layoff of the fire marshal, the firefighters met to try to find enough offsetting savings to save Lockhart’s job.
“The position of fire marshal is critical to our operations,” said deMasi, who added he didn’t know the position was on the chopping block until after he read about it in the Roundup.
Firefighters volunteered a number of savings, including giving up their uniform allowance. In addition, a captain and battalion chief plan to retire this year and replacing them with lower-paid recruits will also save money.
deMasi said the fire marshal focuses on prevention and making sure that new buildings meet the code, including the renovations at two schools now under way.
Galbraith said she had not been aware that no one else in the department had the specific training in building codes and prevention to replace Lockhart.
“I had never been in a position where people were not cross-trained,” said Galbraith. “So to suddenly find out that we only had this one person who can do some of the things the fire marshal does is just totally wrong.”